Taking Your Logistics to the Gym: Strengthening Your Run-of-Show

This was originally presented as a Virtual Lab for the Nonprofit Learning Lab on February 12, 2019. Slides were modified for this blog post.


Did you know that event coordinator jobs rank #5 on several lists of most stressful jobs? It’s right below enlisted military personnel, firefighters, airline pilots, and police officers. If you’re already in the industry, this comes as no surprise.

From a communication standpoint, we’re the liaison between staff, vendors, and guests. Our brains juggle tons of information from months of planning, resulting in mental stress. And of course many of us endure self-criticism, being perfectionists and taking the brunt of guest feedback.

One top of numerous articles about self-care (which can be discussed in a separate post) there are work-related processes we can establish to combat these common stressors. One such process is learning how to build an effective run-of-show (ROS) for each event.

WHAT IS AN ROS?

A run-of-show (ROS) is a collaborative document detailing all the behind-the scenes logistics of an event. It contains the what, where, who, when, and how of each function. Ultimately, anyone else on the team should be able to look at the ROS and execute with minimal questions.

This is not to be confused with the following types of documents, which should supplement the ROS:

  • The program is a simple guest-facing list of key events, often provided on the website and in printed form, e.g. when doors open, when dinner is served, when dancing starts, when event ends.
  • A timeline is a more detailed version of the program, containing staff-facing events. Often mistaken for an ROS, this is most helpful for vendors to know what’s happening behind-the-scenes.
  • Scripts contain “exact” verbiage of speakers on the stage, i.e. emcee. This is helpful to ensure all spoken content can fit into the timeline and both staff and AV team can follow along.

With that said, there’s no such thing as a perfect ROS. There are only best practices and what works for your team, so focus on the end goal. If you’re at an impasse, ask yourself, “What are we trying to accomplish here? How can this process improve?”

SUMMARY OF KEY LESSONS

Here are five best practices to keep in mind when building your ROS:

  • Select a detail-oriented point person to oversee the ROS. Who is keeping everyone accountable for adding their sections?
  • Leverage collaboration technology and shared documents to track changes, comments, and action items, i.e. Google Drive, Slack, Airtable.
  • Schedule weekly ROS runthrough meetings. Whether in-person or over the phone, these will help identify missing details.
  • Make it a safe space to ask the difficult questions. Is everyone comfortable with providing constructive feedback of the ROS?
  • Have the ROS printed and available onsite, or at least on-hand virtually. Use this agreed-upon document to keep everyone on-track at the event.

On the flip side, here are some pitfalls to avoid:

  • Not appointing an onsite executive decision maker. Who makes the call to run late or cut things out of the schedule to catch up?
  • Withholding information or omitting details. Have all key players shared their knowledge with the rest of the team?
  • Missing key vendor logistics. Capture details like when catering arrives for setup or when a silent auction closes.
  • Neglecting to seek feedback or collaboration. Has everyone had a chance to contribute to the master ROS document?
  • Building an ROS that’s difficult to decipher. Can all team members easily understand the document at a quick glance?

The graphic below is a starting point when it comes to deciding which details to include in the ROS:

SAMPLE FUNDRAISER ROS

Check out the slides at the end of this blog post for a progression of good-better-best. The document below contains all the final edits:

If you found this content helpful and want a free 30-minute ROS consultation, contact me.

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